Guest Post: How I Learned to Contain Myself: Making My Class B Campervan Comply with HH’s Self-Contained Requirement

Campervans are the fastest-growing segment of the motorhome market, a trend captured by RV Industry Association data that highlights my own preference for ease of travel over the luxuries of home offered by bigger rigs.

Our campervan is a 1987 Vanagon. Far from luxurious, its 90 square feet manages to fit our family – featuring my 6’5” husband, 12-year-old son, and two large collies – a kitchen, two beds, and enough storage for all our camping equipment. Somehow, everything seems to fit together perfectly.

While I wouldn’t describe traveling in a vintage vehicle as easy, being able to comfortably sleep anywhere you can park, and park just about anywhere, is unbeatable in my book.

But there is one thing that was left out of this otherwise expertly designed Lego of a campervan.

A place to potty.

Granted, no one buys this van with the expectation a bathroom is included. It’s not big by any standard: even a Honda Civic sits on a larger chassis.

For the first years we owned it, I didn’t even think about adding a toilet. We made do with campground facilities and were grateful we didn’t have to visit the dump station on the way out of the campground.

We camp up and down the East Coast and have had wonderful trips all the way up to Quebec City, Canada, and all the way down to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and many spots in between.

When I discovered Harvest Hosts, I thought it seemed right up our alley: we are mostly road trippers and rarely stay more than a couple of nights in the same spot. But then I read the fine print that required “all camping vehicles must be fully self-contained”.

With a  kitchen and integrated water tank, our camper was just a toilet solution shy of meeting the requirement.

Drat.

Some months later, I happened to meet a woman from New York City at a WV rally who shared stories of urban camping with her kids in cities like Washington, D.C., where she overnighted on city streets with free parking.

I don’t have the courage to do that, but I wanted to know: how did she go to the bathroom?

She told me about her collapsible toilet.

Also known as folding toilets, these portable potties break down into discs that are easily stored in any camper or even a car. They are basically a bucket with a lid that you line with a bag. Sprinkling in porta-potty type chemicals deodorizes and converts the waste into a gel.

Intrigued, I did some research and found many rave reviews and stories online from folks amazed at how well they work. These enthusiastic toilet tales convinced me to take a leap of faith and place an order.

It turned out that the potty we bought fit perfectly between the front seats of our campervan.

I set it up, still skeptical, and we went camping. We thought we’d only use it for emergencies, but in testing it out found it worked so well that it got more use than expected, especially in the morning. Getting up and not having to leave the van before making coffee was awesome!

But that’s not the end of this story.

There was one thing I didn’t like about the folding toilet: the way it looked. Ever the crafty camper, I sewed a slipcover to dress up my little black bucket.

I named it my Cutie Pot and created a digital pattern with instructions on how to make it.

With its colorful cover, the bucket potty no longer made me cringe when it caught my eye. It bothered me less to have it right smack in the middle of our camper.

I found myself setting things on it – a coffee cup, a book…I even rested my feet on it while I reclined in the swivel passenger seat. 

This year we joined Harvest Hosts and recently stayed at a winery in Virginia.

We rolled in just in time to order a flight, which we enjoyed on the porch that overlooked the field where we spent the night next to an Airstream.

The next morning, we woke early and were back on the road before the winery opened.

 

Alice Cervantes fell off the corporate ladder and started Hunt and Peck Blog, where she shares tips for camping, working in the digital space, and throwing great tiki parties. She bought the only camper she could find that would fit in her garage in Philadelphia, a 1987 VW Vanagon.

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